Walt Whitman Bridge gunman in custody

March 27, 2008 5:29:26 PM PDT
Authorities took a man into custody on the Walt Whitman Bridge Thursday evening, ending a three-hour standoff that closed the bridge connecting Philadelphia and New Jersey at the height of the evening rush hour.A woman and small child inside the white SUV with the man, whom authorities said had a gun and a baseball bat, were unharmed. A toy gun and the bat were recovered from the SUV, said State Police Sgt. Steven Jones.

Television footage of the standoff showed a white Cadillac Escalade with its rear hazard lights flashing at a standstill in the middle of the Walt Whitman Bridge.

Shortly before the standoff ended at about 7:30 p.m., an armored police vehicle pulled up bumper-to-bumper facing the SUV and SWAT officers were positioned behind it.

The three people then exited the SUV and walked a few feet behind it, along the barrier dividing the westbound and eastbound lanes of traffic.

After a short time, both the man and the woman lay down on the ground, and SWAT team members moved in.

Delaware River Port Authority spokesman Ed Kasuba said police negotiators managed "to peacefully convince the driver of the SUV to just give it up."

The incident started around 4:20 p.m. Thursday when state police tried to stop the vehicle in New Jersey for a speeding violation.

"We called off the pursuit after a few minutes because he was driving erratically, and we didn't want anyone to get hurt," Della Fave said.

State police alerted other law enforcement agencies to the speeding SUV.

Within minutes, Delaware River Port Authority police notified state police that the SUV was stopped on the bridge, which carries Interstate 76 over the Delaware River between south Philadelphia and Gloucester City, N.J.

State police spokesman Stephen Jones said the man stopped the SUV on the bridge, got out and began yelling at motorists while carrying the baby in one arm and a baseball bat in the other. At one point, he threatened to jump off the bridge, Kasuba said.

Kasuba said he believes the woman involved is the man's girlfriend.

"At one point, he showed the butt of a weapon to a DRPA sergeant. That probably was the toy gun that we ended up recovering at the scene," Jones said.

State police said the man had some kind of contact with state troopers last week. Della Fave said the same trooper that the man spoke last week negotiated with him on the bridge Thursday night.

After the surrender, the couple were transported to the New Jersey State Police Barracks in Bellmawr.


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